The best laid plans: avoiding delays in waterfall development projects

Being organised is relatively easy compared to staying organised. When it comes to website projects, we all love having a plan mapped out so we can see all the stages of design and build, and so we have a completely plausible deadline in sight. But sometimes, sadly, it doesn’t go that way. That’s not to say you should be discouraged!

Development for projects like websites have two main methodology routes you can take. The first is waterfall – a linear work route with sequential tasks and deadlines – and the other being agile – a continuous cycle of developing, releasing and improving the site. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on waterfall methodology in relation to a corporate website project.

Any delays in your website project will push the launch date back, so if your deadline is set in stone (when is it not?) you’ll want to do everything you can to make sure the development runs smoothly. Allow us to offer this advice to help you avoid having your website launch delayed.

Everyone involved is so from the get go

First things first, we recommend you organise your roster right away. If you have a boss that needs to give the okay on any developments, then it’s important to get them involved from the start. This, in fact, goes for anyone whose feedback could result in changes. That feedback needs to get to the developers/designers as early as possible to reduce delays. We recommend to our clients that the number of people that need to be involved is low to avoid back and forths holding up productivity. Too many chefs, etc.

There are sometimes unavoidable situations where a decision-maker leaves the project and is replaced by someone else. Don’t panic, it isn’t necessarily a disaster! Try to get the new decision-maker involved in the project as early as possible to make the handover smooth and so they fully understand the themes and objectives. Just be sure everyone on your end and at the development’s side are aware of the change.

Review the schedule that is sent to you

You might be new to website projects, so be careful you don’t underestimate the time requirements. Make sure you understand the time frames and deadlines for the different stages of production. The people building your website should offer you a detailed schedule or Gantt chart with their forecasted project timeline. This should give you an idea of how long stages of the project should take, allowing you to better manage your expectations. Have a proper look over the plan, check it’s realistic and take note of the beginning of important chapters in the project. There will be tasks that you and your team will need to complete to progress the website production, and any delays in doing so could impact on the overall schedule. But don’t worry; your agency should have built in plenty of time for this and allowed for contingency where possible!

During the UAT (user acceptance testing) phase, we suggest that you and your team reserve as much time as possible in a two-week period to thoroughly review and test the development site before it goes live. You’ll need to make sure this isn’t during the company getaway or Christmas party!

Consider your content

Naturally your website will have all sorts of content everywhere. Part of the job for those building your site is to review this content from an analytics and UX perspective and make the recommendations required. It’s worth allocating a chunk of time to do this sooner rather than later. The sooner the new content is reviewed, the sooner you can be sure the content works with the new website design/build.

Written content is one of the most underestimated time-consuming tasks in website building and is arguably the most common reason for delays. You can keep on top of this easily, just as long as you’re aware of the content early on and stay on top of it. If there isn’t a copywriter/content writer involved on the project, you might want to think about investing in one/some – it really makes a difference!

Settle on design before it goes into build

There’s a big milestone you cross when you go from the design stage to the build stage of your website. The advantage here is that your website is on the way to completion and all the visualisation you’ve been shown so far will soon be a reality! The disadvantage is that it’s now much more difficult to make any design changes, and any changes that are made mean that the site needs to be tested all over again, ensuring the design change hasn’t affected any of the other elements in the build. Be sure that everyone has signed off on the design before you move onto the build, especially key stakeholders. Whoever is building your website should (or, at least, we definitely would) make it absolutely clear that the transition from design to build is happening.

Be clear about everything you need upfront

Much like any type of professional build, website designers/programmers need to have everything mapped out from the start. It’s a lot easier to scope, schedule, design and build a website if it’s clear what needs to be involved from the start such as specific functionality (data feeds, alerts, etc.). The people building your website will probably work a specific way depending on what type of build you are looking for and deciding that your website needs to allow the page design to transform into Optimus Prime (or something) last minute could put them back quite a bit. As Paul, the Dusted philosopher/creative director says, “You wouldn’t get a builder in to redo your kitchen and ask him halfway through to include a new bathroom as well”.

 

We hope your website project goes off without a hitch, and that this blog post helps accomplish that. The two most important factors in staying on deadline are communication and timely feedback, so try to stay in regular contact with the people who are designing/building your site. If you go into a project prepared then there’s no reason you can’t have your website up and running right on time.

Of course, the delays within waterfall methodology will be different to those delays that you might encounter using an agile software development. Watch this space to find out…